Kentucky Basketball: 5 Bold Predictions for Wildcats in 2013-14

Bobby Reagan@uklefty22Featured ColumnistNovember 7, 2013

Kentucky Basketball: 5 Bold Predictions for Wildcats in 2013-14

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    Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

    The 2013-14 season for Kentucky basketball officially tips off Friday night when it welcomes UNC Asheville to Rupp Arena. 

    The Wildcats enter the season being the top ranked team in the country, with expectations through the roof and a roster loaded with talent at every position. 

    We'll take a look at five bold predictions that will happen throughout the 2013-14 season for this Kentucky team. 

Kentucky Will Beat Michigan State in the Champions Classic

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    Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    Kentucky will be tested early in the season when it travels to Chicago to take on the No. 2 team in the country in Michigan State in the Champions Classic. 

    While it will only be the third official game the 2013-14 version of the Wildcats will play together, they will come out victorious over the veteran Spartans. 

    Despite Michigan State being comparable talent wise to the Wildcats, this will be the coming out party for three highly touted freshmen in Julius Randle, Andrew Harrison and James Young. Those three players will have the best mismatch for Kentucky to take advantage of, which will happen.

    Harrison will use his size against a diminutive Keith Appling while Young and Randle use their ability to attack the rim or play from the outside to lead Kentucky to a victory. 

Kentucky Will Start Five Freshmen at Least One Game

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    Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

    This won't be the regular starting five for Kentucky, but there will be at least one game this season where John Calipari trots out a starting lineup of all freshmen. 

    With the expected starting lineup to include at least three in Julius Randle, Andrew Harrison and Aaron Harrison joining sophomores Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein, the change in the starting five won't be due to injury either.

    There will be at least one game where Kentucky looks lethargic and Calipari will be looking to light a fire under his team. He will take out his two sophomores and put Dakari Johnson and James Young into the starting lineup.

    While this will more than likely cause a debate among the state and talking heads in the media, Calipari will use this switch as a teaching method.  

James Young Will Lead the Team in Scoring

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    Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

    It won't matter if James Young's name is announced with the starters or comes off the bench, he will be the leading scorer for the 2013-14 Kentucky Wildcats.

    The 6'7" Young can do it all. Whether it's drive and finish at the rim with a thunderous dunk or show his smooth jumper from deep behind the three-point line, Young will be a mismatch no matter who is guarding him.

    If he comes off the bench think of him as a college version of Jamal Crawford, who enters the game and instantly becomes a scoring threat. Teams will have to plan around Young's game, deciding whether to pressure him to beat them off the dribble in the paint or allow him to shoot from the outside.

    More often than not opposing teams will look to slow down Julius Randle and Andrew Harrison that it will allow players like Aaron Harrison and Young to take advantage of the lack of attention. 


Julius Randle Will Win National Player of the Year

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    Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

    Despite not leading his own team in scoring, Randle will be the best player in college basketball this season. 

    The fact is Kentucky is so talented that you can't concentrate solely on one person and there will be games where Randle takes complete advantage of this. He will also benefit from having arguably the best point guard in the country feeding him the ball.

    The Texas native will be a highlight reel for college basketball with his thunderous dunks and ability to dribble and bring the ball up the court at 6'9".

    The other candidates for National Player of the Year includes Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State), Russ Smith (Louisville), Doug McDermott (Creighton) and Andrew Wiggins (Kansas). However, with defenses focusing solely on Wiggins and Smart, they may not be able to live up to the hype they enter the season with.

    McDermott may put up the best numbers in the country, but playing on a mediocre team in an average conference this year could hurt his chances.


There Will Be a Rematch for the Title with the Same Outcome

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    Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

    The last time Kentucky won a national title, it won in a rematch against a team it defeated in the Champions Classic. The 2011-12 Kentucky team beat Kansas in New York early in the season before beating them again to win the national championship.

    The same thing will happen this season when Kentucky beats Michigan State in the Champions Classic before it defeats the Spartans again to win the title.

    These two teams are the best in the country and will be for the entire season, before meeting each other in the national title game. 

    Kentucky will win this game again, raising a ninth banner and opening up yet another conversation if a team can go 40-0 when the Wildcats fall just short of that goal.